LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — Hundreds of demonstrators pelted the infamous Rampart police station with eggs, rocks and broken bottles on Tuesday night despite pleas for from the city’s top cop.
Police Chief Charlie Beck’s call for calm went unheeded after promising to thoroughly investigate an officer’s fatal shooting of a Guatemalan immigrant wielding a knife.
KNX 1070’s John Baird Reports Protesters, Police Clash For 2nd Straight Night
Police reported 22 arrests late Tuesday, mainly for failure to disperse and unlawful assembly, Officer Karen Rayner said. Officers fired at least two volleys of nonlethal foam projectiles at
demonstrators, she said. No injuries to officers or civilians were reported.
At a late-afternoon news conference, Beck said only 40 seconds went by between the time officers made contact with Manuel Jamines on Sunday and the moment an officer shot him twice.
The shooting prompted demonstrations Monday near MacArthur Park, a densely packed neighborhood west of downtown populated with recent immigrants from Central America. Four people were arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor inciting a riot, and others threw rocks and bottles at police, slightly injuring three officers, Officer Bruce Borihanh said.
The protest gained steam again Tuesday night, when about 300 people took their complaints to the Rampart police station near downtown Los Angeles, about two blocks from where Jamines died, said Lt. Andrew Neiman.
A citywide tactical alert was called to free up more officers to respond to the area, Rayner said.
Beck said the incident involving Jamines started when someone flagged down three bicycle officers to tell them a man was threatening people with a knife.
The officers approached the suspect and told him in Spanish and English to put down the knife. Instead, Jamines raised the knife above his head and lunged at Officer Frank Hernandez, a 13-year veteran of the department, Beck said.
Eyewitness accounts from six civilians, nine police personnel and two fire department staff indicate Hernandez fired twice “in immediate defense of life,” Beck said. Jamines, 37, died at the scene.
Investigators recovered a bloody, 6-inch knife at the scene but didn’t know where the blood came from.
“This was a very brief moment in time, just 40 seconds between first contact and the time of the shooting,” Beck said. “He rushed the officers with a knife so he’s controlling the time frame.
Sometimes officers can’t create time or distance.”
Beck said the timeline was based on preliminary interviews, and the department’s Force Investigation Division will conduct an exhaustive probe. The three officers involved in the shooting have been temporarily reassigned during the investigation. Jamines’ neighbors described him as being drunk but not dangerous.
“Killing a drunk isn’t right,” said Jamines’ cousin Juan Jaminez, 38, a day laborer. He and others said Jamines was a friendly, hardworking man who liked to drink on the weekends but
Jamines had a wife and three children — ages 13, 6 and 8 — in his hometown of Mazatenango, Guatemala, his cousin said.
He came to the United States six years ago to find work as a day laborer and spent most of his time looking for jobs in the parking lot of the Home Depot a block away.
“The officer who did this should be subject to discipline and a thorough investigation,” said Juan Flores, 39, a cook at a downtown restaurant who knew Jamines. “We want to know, is he on vacation or is he fired?”
Flores said the officers should have used a non-lethal weapon to subdue Jamines.
Beck said the officer who shot Jamines had no baton or stun gun with him. He said bicycle officers frequently do not carry the selection of non-lethal weapons found in patrol cars.
On Tuesday evening, dozens of people lit prayer candles at the site where Jamines was killed.
Demonstrators had hung posters with Spanish slogans that said: “The people demand accountability,” “No more murders,” and “The police murdered a day laborer and we demand justice.”
Juana Neri, 57, a Mexican immigrant housewife who lives nearby, pushed her grocery bag in a baby stroller past the corner where Jamines was killed.
“It’s bad, what the police did, but what’s worse is the silly stuff that people were doing here,” she said, referring to Monday’s violence. “We are not in our country, and with the problems that Hispanic immigrants have these days, it’s better not to cause problems.”
Lt. Andrew Neiman said Monday’s peaceful candlelight vigil escalated to violence because a group handing out fliers for the Revolutionary Communist Party rallied the crowd with a bullhorn until the police declared an unlawful assembly.
“They were antagonistic, vocal and derogatory to the police,” Neiman said. “They tie themselves to immigrants’ rights protests, and people who live there say they’re not from the community.”
A telephone listing for the Revolutionary Communist Party could not be found.
Beck said the brawling was caused by several factors.
“First, we understand this is an emotional issue and we need to get the facts out. Second, there’s the outside agitators. And finally, it was the third day of a three-day weekend and some people in the crowd had been drinking,” he said.
The police union issued a statement Tuesday calling the shooting a “tragic incident” and saying community activists were trying to stir up controversy.
“Getting drunk and threatening bystanders and then LAPD officers with a knife is dangerous and self-destructive in any language,” the Los Angeles Police Protective League’s statement
said. “This was not and should not be a controversial shooting.”
MacArthur Park was the site of a May 1, 2007, clash in which police officers pummeled immigration rights marchers and reporters with batons and shot rubber bullets into the crowd. Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured. Police said it began with
a group of “agitators” outside the park throwing objects at officers.
The embarrassing incident cost the city more than $13 million in lawsuit settlements. Police were retrained on crowd control, forming skirmish lines, using batons in a crowd and using
extraction teams to identify and arrest violent demonstrators.
(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)